Part 4 out of 9
'O, not for me. Don't bring it,' she said hastily. 'I shouldn't
like you to.'
'Let me see--to-morrow evening at seven or a few minutes past I
shall be passing the waterfall on my way home. I could conveniently
give it you there, and I should like you to have it.'
He modulated into the Pastoral Symphony, still looking in her eyes.
'Very well,' she said, to get rid of the look.
The storm had by this time considerably decreased in violence, and
in seven or ten minutes the sky partially cleared, the clouds around
the western horizon becoming lighted up with the rays of the sinking
Cytherea drew a long breath of relief, and prepared to go away. She
was full of a distressing sense that her detention in the old manor-
house, and the acquaintanceship it had set on foot, was not a thing
she wished. It was such a foolish thing to have been excited and
dragged into frankness by the wiles of a stranger.
'Allow me to come with you,' he said, accompanying her to the door,
and again showing by his behaviour how much he was impressed with
her. His influence over her had vanished with the musical chords,
and she turned her back upon him. 'May I come?' he repeated.
'No, no. The distance is not a quarter of a mile--it is really not
necessary, thank you,' she said quietly. And wishing him good-
evening, without meeting his eyes, she went down the steps, leaving
him standing at the door.
'O, how is it that man has so fascinated me?' was all she could
think. Her own self, as she had sat spell-bound before him, was all
she could see. Her gait was constrained, from the knowledge that
his eyes were upon her until she had passed the hollow by the
waterfall, and by ascending the rise had become hidden from his view
by the boughs of the overhanging trees.
5. SIX TO SEVEN P.M.
The wet shining road threw the western glare into her eyes with an
invidious lustre which rendered the restlessness of her mood more
wearying. Her thoughts flew from idea to idea without asking for
the slightest link of connection between one and another. One
moment she was full of the wild music and stirring scene with
Manston---the next, Edward's image rose before her like a shadowy
ghost. Then Manston's black eyes seemed piercing her again, and the
reckless voluptuous mouth appeared bending to the curves of his
special words. What could be those troubles to which he had
alluded? Perhaps Miss Aldclyffe was at the bottom of them. Sad at
heart she paced on: her life was bewildering her.
On coming into Miss Aldclyffe's presence Cytherea told her of the
incident, not without a fear that she would burst into one of her
ungovernable fits of temper at learning Cytherea's slight departure
from the programme. But, strangely to Cytherea, Miss Aldclyffe
looked delighted. The usual cross-examination followed.
'And so you were with him all that time?' said the lady, with
'Yes, I was.'
'I did not tell you to call at the Old House twice.'
'I didn't call, as I have said. He made me come into the porch.'
'What remarks did he make, do you say?'
'That the lightning was not so bad as I thought.'
'A very important remark, that. Did he--' she turned her glance
full upon the girl, and eyeing her searchingly, said--
'Did he say anything about ME?'
'Nothing,' said Cytherea, returning her gaze calmly, 'except that I
was to give you the subscription.'
'You are quite sure?'
'I believe you. Did he say anything striking or strange about
'Only one thing--that he was troubled,'
After saying the word, Miss Aldclyffe relapsed into silence. Such
behaviour as this had ended, on most previous occasions, by her
making a confession, and Cytherea expected one now. But for once
she was mistaken, nothing more was said.
When she had returned to her room she sat down and penned a farewell
letter to Edward Springrove, as little able as any other excitable
and brimming young woman of nineteen to feel that the wisest and
only dignified course at that juncture was to do nothing at all.
She told him that, to her painful surprise, she had learnt that his
engagement to another woman was a matter of notoriety. She insisted
that all honour bade him marry his early love--a woman far better
than her unworthy self, who only deserved to be forgotten, and
begged him to remember that he was not to see her face again. She
upbraided him for levity and cruelty in meeting her so frequently at
Budmouth, and above all in stealing the kiss from her lips on the
last evening of the water excursions. 'I never, never can forget
it!' she said, and then felt a sensation of having done her duty,
ostensibly persuading herself that her reproaches and commands were
of such a force that no man to whom they were uttered could ever
approach her more.
Yet it was all unconsciously said in words which betrayed a
lingering tenderness of love at every unguarded turn. Like Beatrice
accusing Dante from the chariot, try as she might to play the
superior being who contemned such mere eye-sensuousness, she
betrayed at every point a pretty woman's jealousy of a rival, and
covertly gave her old lover hints for excusing himself at each fresh
This done, Cytherea, still in a practical mood, upbraided herself
with weakness in allowing a stranger like Mr. Manston to influence
her as he had done that evening. What right on earth had he to
suggest so suddenly that she might meet him at the waterfall to
receive his music? She would have given much to be able to
annihilate the ascendency he had obtained over her during that
extraordinary interval of melodious sound. Not being able to endure
the notion of his living a minute longer in the belief he was then
holding, she took her pen and wrote to him also:--
'I find I cannot meet you at seven o'clock by the waterfall as I
promised. The emotion I felt made me forgetful of realities.
A great statesman thinks several times, and acts; a young lady acts,
and thinks several times. When, a few minutes later, she saw the
postman carry off the bag containing one of the letters, and a
messenger with the other, she, for the first time, asked herself the
question whether she had acted very wisely in writing to either of
the two men who had so influenced her.
IX. THE EVENTS OF TEN WEEKS
1. FROM SEPTEMBER THE TWENTY-FIRST TO THE MIDDLE OF NOVEMBER
The foremost figure within Cytherea's horizon, exclusive of the
inmates of Knapwater House, was now the steward, Mr. Manston. It
was impossible that they should live within a quarter of a mile of
each other, be engaged in the same service, and attend the same
church, without meeting at some spot or another, twice or thrice a
week. On Sundays, in her pew, when by chance she turned her head,
Cytherea found his eyes waiting desirously for a glimpse of hers,
and, at first more strangely, the eyes of Miss Aldclyffe furtively
resting on him. On coming out of church he frequently walked beside
Cytherea till she reached the gate at which residents in the House
turned into the shrubbery. By degrees a conjecture grew to a
certainty. She knew that he loved her.
But a strange fact was connected with the development of his love.
He was palpably making the strongest efforts to subdue, or at least
to hide, the weakness, and as it sometimes seemed, rather from his
own conscience than from surrounding eyes. Hence she found that not
one of his encounters with her was anything more than the result of
pure accident. He made no advances whatever: without avoiding her,
he never sought her: the words he had whispered at their first
interview now proved themselves to be quite as much the result of
unguarded impulse as was her answer. Something held him back, bound
his impulse down, but she saw that it was neither pride of his
person, nor fear that she would refuse him--a course she
unhesitatingly resolved to take should he think fit to declare
himself. She was interested in him and his marvellous beauty, as
she might have been in some fascinating panther or leopard--for some
undefinable reason she shrank from him, even whilst she admired.
The keynote of her nature, a warm 'precipitance of soul,' as
Coleridge happily writes it, which Manston had so directly pounced
upon at their very first interview, gave her now a tremulous sense
of being in some way in his power.
The state of mind was, on the whole, a dangerous one for a young and
inexperienced woman; and perhaps the circumstance which, more than
any other, led her to cherish Edward's image now, was that he had
taken no notice of the receipt of her letter, stating that she
discarded him. It was plain then, she said, that he did not care
deeply for her, and she thereupon could not quite leave off caring
deeply for him:--
Nolunt ubi velis, ubi nolis cupiunt ultro.'
The month of October passed, and November began its course. The
inhabitants of the village of Carriford grew weary of supposing that
Miss Aldclyffe was going to marry her steward. New whispers arose
and became very distinct (though they did not reach Miss Aldclyffe's
ears) to the effect that the steward was deeply in love with
Cytherea Graye. Indeed, the fact became so obvious that there was
nothing left to say about it except that their marriage would be an
excellent one for both;--for her in point of comfort--and for him in
point of love.
As circles in a pond grow wider and wider, the next fact, which at
first had been patent only to Cytherea herself, in due time spread
to her neighbours, and they, too, wondered that he made no overt
advances. By the middle of November, a theory made up of a
combination of the other two was received with general favour: its
substance being that a guilty intrigue had been commenced between
Manston and Miss Aldclyffe, some years before, when he was a very
young man, and she still in the enjoyment of some womanly beauty,
but now that her seniority began to grow emphatic she was becoming
distasteful to him. His fear of the effect of the lady's jealousy
would, they said, thus lead him to conceal from her his new
attachment to Cytherea. Almost the only woman who did not believe
this was Cytherea herself, on unmistakable grounds, which were
hidden from all besides. It was not only in public, but even more
markedly in secluded places, on occasions when gallantry would have
been safe from all discovery, that this guarded course of action was
pursued, all the strength of a consuming passion burning in his eyes
2. NOVEMBER THE EIGHTEENTH
It was on a Friday in this month of November that Owen Graye paid a
visit to his sister.
His zealous integrity still retained for him the situation at
Budmouth, and in order that there should be as little interruption
as possible to his duties there, he had decided not to come to
Knapwater till late in the afternoon, and to return to Budmouth by
the first train the next morning, Miss Aldclyffe having made a point
of frequently offering him lodging for an unlimited period, to the
great pleasure of Cytherea.
He reached the house about four o'clock, and ringing the bell, asked
of the page who answered it for Miss Graye.
When Graye spoke the name of his sister, Manston, who was just
coming out from an interview with Miss Aldclyffe, passed him in the
vestibule and heard the question. The steward's face grew hot, and
he secretly clenched his hands. He half crossed the court, then
turned his head and saw that the lad still stood at the door, though
Owen had been shown into the house. Manston went back to him.
'Who was that man?' he said.
'I don't know, sir.'
'Has he ever been here before?'
'How many times?'
'You are sure you don't know him?'
'I think he is Miss Graye's brother, sir.'
'Then, why the devil didn't you say so before!' Manston exclaimed,
and again went on his way.
'Of course, that was not the man of my dreams--of course, it
couldn't be!' he said to himself. 'That I should be such a fool--
such an utter fool. Good God! to allow a girl to influence me like
this, day after day, till I am jealous of her very brother. A
lady's dependent, a waif, a helpless thing entirely at the mercy of
the world; yes, curse it; that is just why it is; that fact of her
being so helpless against the blows of circumstances which renders
her so deliciously sweet!'
He paused opposite his house. Should he get his horse saddled? No.
He went down the drive and out of the park, having started to
proceed to an outlying spot on the estate concerning some draining,
and to call at the potter's yard to make an arrangement for the
supply of pipes. But a remark which Miss Aldclyffe had dropped in
relation to Cytherea was what still occupied his mind, and had been
the immediate cause of his excitement at the sight of her brother.
Miss Aldclyffe had meaningly remarked during their intercourse, that
Cytherea was wildly in love with Edward Springrove, in spite of his
engagement to his cousin Adelaide.
'How I am harassed!' he said aloud, after deep thought for half-an-
hour, while still continuing his walk with the greatest vehemence.
'How I am harassed by these emotions of mine!' He calmed himself by
an effort. 'Well, duty after all it shall be, as nearly as I can
effect it. "Honesty is the best policy;"' with which vigorously
uttered resolve he once more attempted to turn his attention to the
prosy object of his journey.
The evening had closed in to a dark and dreary night when the
steward came from the potter's door to proceed homewards again. The
gloom did not tend to raise his spirits, and in the total lack of
objects to attract his eye, he soon fell to introspection as before.
It was along the margin of turnip fields that his path lay, and the
large leaves of the crop struck flatly against his feet at every
step, pouring upon them the rolling drops of moisture gathered upon
their broad surfaces; but the annoyance was unheeded. Next reaching
a fir plantation, he mounted the stile and followed the path into
the midst of the darkness produced by the overhanging trees.
After walking under the dense shade of the inky boughs for a few
minutes, he fancied he had mistaken the path, which as yet was
scarcely familiar to him. This was proved directly afterwards by
his coming at right angles upon some obstruction, which careful
feeling with outstretched hands soon told him to be a rail fence.
However, as the wood was not large, he experienced no alarm about
finding the path again, and with some sense of pleasure halted
awhile against the rails, to listen to the intensely melancholy yet
musical wail of the fir-tops, and as the wind passed on, the prompt
moan of an adjacent plantation in reply. He could just dimly
discern the airy summits of the two or three trees nearest him
waving restlessly backwards and forwards, and stretching out their
boughs like hairy arms into the dull sky. The scene, from its
striking and emphatic loneliness, began to grow congenial to his
mood; all of human kind seemed at the antipodes.
A sudden rattle on his right hand caused him to start from his
reverie, and turn in that direction. There, before him, he saw rise
up from among the trees a fountain of sparks and smoke, then a red
glare of light coming forward towards him; then a flashing panorama
of illuminated oblong pictures; then the old darkness, more
impressive than ever.
The surprise, which had owed its origin to his imperfect
acquaintance with the topographical features of that end of the
estate, had been but momentary; the disturbance, a well-known one to
dwellers by a railway, being caused by the 6.50 down-train passing
along a shallow cutting in the midst of the wood immediately below
where he stood, the driver having the fire-door of the engine open
at the minute of going by. The train had, when passing him, already
considerably slackened speed, and now a whistle was heard,
announcing that Carriford Road Station was not far in its van.
But contrary to the natural order of things, the discovery that it
was only a commonplace train had not caused Manston to stir from his
position of facing the railway.
If the 6.50 down-train had been a flash of forked lightning
transfixing him to the earth, he could scarcely have remained in a
more trance-like state. He still leant against the railings, his
right hand still continued pressing on his walking-stick, his weight
on one foot, his other heel raised, his eyes wide open towards the
blackness of the cutting. The only movement in him was a slight
dropping of the lower jaw, separating his previously closed lips a
little way, as when a strange conviction rushes home suddenly upon a
man. A new surprise, not nearly so trivial as the first, had taken
possession of him.
It was on this account. At one of the illuminated windows of a
second-class carriage in the series gone by, he had seen a pale
face, reclining upon one hand, the light from the lamp falling full
upon it. The face was a woman's.
At last Manston moved; gave a whispering kind of whistle, adjusted
his hat, and walked on again, cross-questioning himself in every
direction as to how a piece of knowledge he had carefully concealed
had found its way to another person's intelligence. 'How can my
address have become known?' he said at length, audibly. 'Well, it
is a blessing I have been circumspect and honourable, in relation to
that--yes, I will say it, for once, even if the words choke me, that
darling of mine, Cytherea, never to be my own, never. I suppose all
will come out now. All!' The great sadness of his utterance proved
that no mean force had been exercised upon himself to sustain the
circumspection he had just claimed.
He wheeled to the left, pursued the ditch beside the railway fence,
and presently emerged from the wood, stepping into a road which
crossed the railway by a bridge.
As he neared home, the anxiety lately written in his face, merged by
degrees into a grimly humorous smile, which hung long upon his lips,
and he quoted aloud a line from the book of Jeremiah--
'A woman shall compass a man.'
3. NOVEMBER THE NINETEENTH. DAYBREAK
Before it was light the next morning, two little naked feet pattered
along the passage in Knapwater House, from which Owen Graye's
bedroom opened, and a tap was given upon his door.
'Owen, Owen, are you awake?' said Cytherea in a whisper through the
keyhole. 'You must get up directly, or you'll miss the train.'
When he descended to his sister's little room, he found her there
already waiting with a cup of cocoa and a grilled rasher on the
table for him. A hasty meal was despatched in the intervals of
putting on his overcoat and finding his hat, and they then went
softly through the long deserted passages, the kitchen-maid who had
prepared their breakfast walking before them with a lamp held high
above her head, which cast long wheeling shadows down corridors
intersecting the one they followed, their remoter ends being lost in
darkness. The door was unbolted and they stepped out.
Owen had preferred walking to the station to accepting the pony-
carriage which Miss Aldclyffe had placed at his disposal, having a
morbid horror of giving trouble to people richer than himself, and
especially to their men-servants, who looked down upon him as a
hybrid monster in social position. Cytherea proposed to walk a
little way with him.
'I want to talk to you as long as I can,' she said tenderly.
Brother and sister then emerged by the heavy door into the drive.
The feeling and aspect of the hour were precisely similar to those
under which the steward had left the house the evening previous,
excepting that apparently unearthly reversal of natural sequence,
which is caused by the world getting lighter instead of darker.
'The tearful glimmer of the languid dawn' was just sufficient to
reveal to them the melancholy red leaves, lying thickly in the
channels by the roadside, ever and anon loudly tapped on by heavy
drops of water, which the boughs above had collected from the foggy
They passed the Old House, engaged in a deep conversation, and had
proceeded about twenty yards by a cross route, in the direction of
the turnpike road, when the form of a woman emerged from the porch
of the building.
She was wrapped in a grey waterproof cloak, the hood of which was
drawn over her head and closely round her face--so closely that her
eyes were the sole features uncovered.
With this one exception of her appearance there, the most perfect
stillness and silence pervaded the steward's residence from basement
to chimney. Not a shutter was open; not a twine of smoke came
Underneath the ivy-covered gateway she stood still and listened for
two, or possibly three minutes, till she became conscious of others
in the park. Seeing the pair she stepped back, with the apparent
intention of letting them pass out of sight, and evidently wishing
to avoid observation. But looking at her watch, and returning it
rapidly to her pocket, as if surprised at the lateness of the hour,
she hurried out again, and across the park by a still more oblique
line than that traced by Owen and his sister.
These in the meantime had got into the road, and were walking along
it as the woman came up on the other side of the boundary hedge,
looking for a gate or stile, by which she, too, might get off the
grass upon the hard ground.
Their conversation, of which every word was clear and distinct, in
the still air of the dawn, to the distance of a quarter of a mile,
reached her ears, and withdrew her attention from all other matters
and sights whatsoever. Thus arrested she stood for an instant as
precisely in the attitude of Imogen by the cave of Belarius, as if
she had studied the position from the play. When they had advanced
a few steps, she followed them in some doubt, still screened by the
'Do you believe in such odd coincidences?' said Cytherea.
'How do you mean, believe in them? They occur sometimes.'
'Yes, one will occur often enough--that is, two disconnected events
will fall strangely together by chance, and people scarcely notice
the fact beyond saying, "Oddly enough it happened that so and so
were the same," and so on. But when three such events coincide
without any apparent reason for the coincidence, it seems as if
there must be invisible means at work. You see, three things
falling together in that manner are ten times as singular as two
cases of coincidence which are distinct.'
'Well, of course: what a mathematical head you have, Cytherea! But
I don't see so much to marvel at in our case. That the man who kept
the public-house in which Miss Aldclyffe fainted, and who found out
her name and position, lives in this neighbourhood, is accounted for
by the fact that she got him the berth to stop his tongue. That you
came here was simply owing to Springrove.'
'Ah, but look at this. Miss Aldclyffe is the woman our father first
loved, and I have come to Miss Aldclyffe's; you can't get over
From these premises, she proceeded to argue like an elderly divine
on the designs of Providence which were apparent in such
conjunctures, and went into a variety of details connected with Miss
'Had I better tell Miss Aldclyffe that I know all this?' she
inquired at last.
'What's the use?' he said. 'Your possessing the knowledge does no
harm; you are at any rate comfortable here, and a confession to Miss
Aldclyffe might only irritate her. No, hold your tongue, Cytherea.'
'I fancy I should have been tempted to tell her too,' Cytherea went
on, 'had I not found out that there exists a very odd, almost
imperceptible, and yet real connection of some kind between her and
Mr. Manston, which is more than that of a mutual interest in the
'She is in love with him!' exclaimed Owen; 'fancy that!'
'Ah--that's what everybody says who has been keen enough to notice
anything. I said so at first. And yet now I cannot persuade myself
that she is in love with him at all.'
'Why can't you?'
'She doesn't act as if she were. She isn't--you will know I don't
say it from any vanity, Owen--she isn't the least jealous of me.'
'Perhaps she is in some way in his power.'
'No--she is not. He was openly advertised for, and chosen from
forty or fifty who answered the advertisement, without knowing whose
it was. And since he has been here, she has certainly done nothing
to compromise herself in any way. Besides, why should she have
brought an enemy here at all?'
'Then she must have fallen in love with him. You know as well as I
do, Cyth, that with women there's nothing between the two poles of
emotion towards an interesting male acquaintance. 'Tis either love
They walked for a few minutes in silence, when Cytherea's eyes
accidentally fell upon her brother's feet.
'Owen,' she said, 'do you know that there is something unusual in
your manner of walking?'
'What is it like?' he asked.
'I can't quite say, except that you don't walk so regularly as you
The woman behind the hedge, who had still continued to dog their
footsteps, made an impatient movement at this change in their
conversation, and looked at her watch again. Yet she seemed
reluctant to give over listening to them.
'Yes,' Owen returned with assumed carelessness, 'I do know it. I
think the cause of it is that mysterious pain which comes just above
my ankle sometimes. You remember the first time I had it? That day
we went by steam-packet to Lulstead Cove, when it hindered me from
coming back to you, and compelled me to sleep with the gateman we
have been talking about.'
'But is it anything serious, dear Owen?' Cytherea exclaimed, with
'O, nothing at all. It is sure to go off again. I never find a
sign of it when I sit in the office.'
Again their unperceived companion made a gesture of vexation, and
looked at her watch as if time were precious. But the dialogue
still flowed on upon this new subject, and showed no sign of
returning to its old channel.
Gathering up her skirt decisively she renounced all further hope,
and hurried along the ditch till she had dropped into a valley, and
came to a gate which was beyond the view of those coming behind.
This she softly opened, and came out upon the road, following it in
the direction of the railway station.
Presently she heard Owen Graye's footsteps in her rear, his
quickened pace implying that he had parted from his sister. The
woman thereupon increased her rapid walk to a run, and in a few
minutes safely distanced her fellow-traveller.
The railway at Carriford Road consisted only of a single line of
rails; and the short local down-train by which Owen was going to
Budmouth was shunted on to a siding whilst the first up-train
passed. Graye entered the waiting-room, and the door being open he
listlessly observed the movements of a woman wearing a long grey
cloak, and closely hooded, who had asked for a ticket for London.
He followed her with his eyes on to the platform, saw her waiting
there and afterwards stepping into the train: his recollection of
her ceasing with the perception.
4. EIGHT TO TEN O'CLOCK A.M.
Mrs. Crickett, twice a widow, and now the parish clerk's wife, a
fine-framed, scandal-loving woman, with a peculiar corner to her eye
by which, without turning her head, she could see what people were
doing almost behind her, lived in a cottage standing nearer to the
old manor-house than any other in the village of Carriford, and she
had on that account been temporarily engaged by the steward, as a
respectable kind of charwoman and general servant, until a settled
arrangement could be made with some person as permanent domestic.
Every morning, therefore, Mrs. Crickett, immediately she had lighted
the fire in her own cottage, and prepared the breakfast for herself
and husband, paced her way to the Old House to do the same for Mr.
Manston. Then she went home to breakfast; and when the steward had
eaten his, and had gone out on his rounds, she returned again to
clear away, make his bed, and put the house in order for the day.
On the morning of Owen Graye's departure, she went through the
operations of her first visit as usual--proceeded home to breakfast,
and went back again, to perform those of the second.
Entering Manston's empty bedroom, with her hands on her hips, she
indifferently cast her eyes upon the bed, previously to dismantling
Whilst she looked, she thought in an inattentive manner, 'What a
remarkably quiet sleeper Mr. Manston must be!' The upper bed-
clothes were flung back, certainly, but the bed was scarcely
disarranged. 'Anybody would almost fancy,' she thought, 'that he
had made it himself after rising.'
But these evanescent thoughts vanished as they had come, and Mrs.
Crickett set to work; she dragged off the counterpane, blankets and
sheets, and stooped to lift the pillows. Thus stooping, something
arrested her attention; she looked closely--more closely--very
closely. 'Well, to be sure!' was all she could say. The clerk's
wife stood as if the air had suddenly set to amber, and held her
fixed like a fly in it.
The object of her wonder was a trailing brown hair, very little less
than a yard long, which proved it clearly to be a hair from some
woman's head. She drew it off the pillow, and took it to the
window; there holding it out she looked fixedly at it, and became
utterly lost in meditation: her gaze, which had at first actively
settled on the hair, involuntarily dropped past its object by
degrees and was lost on the floor, as the inner vision obscured the
She at length moistened her lips, returned her eyes to the hair,
wound it round her fingers, put it in some paper, and secreted the
whole in her pocket. Mrs. Crickett's thoughts were with her work no
more that morning.
She searched the house from roof-tree to cellar, for some other
trace of feminine existence or appurtenance; but none was to be
She went out into the yard, coal-hole, stable, hay-loft, green-
house, fowl-house, and piggery, and still there was no sign. Coming
in again, she saw a bonnet, eagerly pounced upon it; and found it to
be her own.
Hastily completing her arrangements in the other rooms, she entered
the village again, and called at once on the postmistress, Elizabeth
Leat, an intimate friend of hers, and a female who sported several
unique diseases and afflictions.
Mrs. Crickett unfolded the paper, took out the hair, and waved it on
high before the perplexed eyes of Elizabeth, which immediately
mooned and wandered after it like a cat's.
'What is it?' said Mrs. Leat, contracting her eyelids, and
stretching out towards the invisible object a narrow bony hand that
would have been an unmitigated delight to the pencil of Carlo
'You shall hear,' said Mrs. Crickett, complacently gathering up the
treasure into her own fat hand; and the secret was then solemnly
imparted, together with the accident of its discovery.
A shaving-glass was taken down from a nail, laid on its back in the
middle of a table by the window, and the hair spread carefully out
upon it. The pair then bent over the table from opposite sides,
their elbows on the edge, their hands supporting their heads, their
foreheads nearly touching, and their eyes upon the hair.
'He ha' been mad a'ter my lady Cytherea,' said Mrs. Crickett, 'and
'tis my very belief the hair is--'
'No 'tidn'. Hers idn' so dark as that,' said Elizabeth.
'Elizabeth, you know that as the faithful wife of a servant of the
Church, I should be glad to think as you do about the girl. Mind I
don't wish to say anything against Miss Graye, but this I do say,
that I believe her to be a nameless thing, and she's no right to
stick a moral clock in her face, and deceive the country in such a
way. If she wasn't of a bad stock at the outset she was bad in the
planten, and if she wasn't bad in the planten, she was bad in the
growen, and if not in the growen, she's made bad by what she's gone
'But I have another reason for knowing it idn' hers,' said Mrs.
'Ah! I know whose it is then--Miss Aldclyffe's, upon my song!'
''Tis the colour of hers, but I don't believe it to be hers either.'
'Don't you believe what they d' say about her and him?'
'I say nothen about that; but you don't know what I know about his
'What about 'em?'
'He d' post all his letters here except those for one person, and
they he d' take to Budmouth. My son is in Budmouth Post Office, as
you know, and as he d' sit at desk he can see over the blind of the
window all the people who d' post letters. Mr. Manston d'
unvariably go there wi' letters for that person; my boy d' know 'em
by sight well enough now.'
'Is it a she?'
''Tis a she.'
'What's her name?'
'The little stunpoll of a fellow couldn't call to mind more than
that 'tis Miss Somebody, of London. However, that's the woman who
ha' been here, depend upon't--a wicked one--some poor street-wench
escaped from Sodom, I warrant ye.'
'Only to find herself in Gomorrah, seemingly.'
'That may be.'
'No, no, Mrs. Leat, this is clear to me. 'Tis no miss who came here
to see our steward last night--whenever she came or wherever she
vanished. Do you think he would ha' let a miss get here how she
could, go away how she would, without breakfast or help of any
Elizabeth shook her head--Mrs. Crickett looked at her solemnly.
'I say I know she had no help of any kind; I know it was so, for the
grate was quite cold when I touched it this morning with these
fingers, and he was still in bed. No, he wouldn't take the trouble
to write letters to a girl and then treat her so off-hand as that.
There's a tie between 'em stronger than feelen. She's his wife.'
'He married! The Lord so 's, what shall we hear next? Do he look
married now? His are not the abashed eyes and lips of a married
'Perhaps she's a tame one--but she's his wife still.'
'No, no: he's not a married man.'
'Yes, yes, he is. I've had three, and I ought to know.'
'Well, well,' said Mrs. Leat, giving way. 'Whatever may be the
truth on't I trust Providence will settle it all for the best, as He
'Ay, ay, Elizabeth,' rejoined Mrs. Crickett with a satirical sigh,
as she turned on her foot to go home, 'good people like you may say
so, but I have always found Providence a different sort of feller.'
5. NOVEMBER THE TWENTIETH
It was Miss Aldclyffe's custom, a custom originated by her father,
and nourished by her own exclusiveness, to unlock the post-bag
herself every morning, instead of allowing the duty to devolve on
the butler, as was the case in most of the neighbouring county
families. The bag was brought upstairs each morning to her
dressing-room, where she took out the contents, mostly in the
presence of her maid and Cytherea, who had the entree of the chamber
at all hours, and attended there in the morning at a kind of
reception on a small scale, which was held by Miss Aldclyffe of her
Here she read her letters before the glass, whilst undergoing the
operation of being brushed and dressed.
'What woman can this be, I wonder?' she said on the morning
succeeding that of the last section. '"London, N.!" It is the
first time in my life I ever had a letter from that outlandish
place, the North side of London.'
Cytherea had just come into her presence to learn if there was
anything for herself; and on being thus addressed, walked up to Miss
Aldclyffe's corner of the room to look at the curiosity which had
raised such an exclamation. But the lady, having opened the
envelope and read a few lines, put it quickly in her pocket, before
Cytherea could reach her side.
'O, 'tis nothing,' she said. She proceeded to make general remarks
in a noticeably forced tone of sang-froid, from which she soon
lapsed into silence. Not another word was said about the letter:
she seemed very anxious to get her dressing done, and the room
cleared. Thereupon Cytherea went away to the other window, and a
few minutes later left the room to follow her own pursuits.
It was late when Miss Aldclyffe descended to the breakfast-table and
then she seemed there to no purpose; tea, coffee, eggs, cutlets, and
all their accessories, were left absolutely untasted. The next that
was seen of her was when walking up and down the south terrace, and
round the flower-beds; her face was pale, and her tread was fitful,
and she crumpled a letter in her hand.
Dinner-time came round as usual; she did not speak ten words, or
indeed seem conscious of the meal; for all that Miss Aldclyffe did
in the way of eating, dinner might have been taken out as intact as
it was taken in.
In her own private apartment Miss Aldclyffe again pulled out the
letter of the morning. One passage in it ran thus:--
'Of course, being his wife, I could publish the fact, and compel him
to acknowledge me at any moment, notwithstanding his threats, and
reasonings that it will be better to wait. I have waited, and
waited again, and the time for such acknowledgment seems no nearer
than at first. To show you how patiently I have waited I can tell
you that not till a fortnight ago, when by stress of circumstances I
had been driven to new lodgings, have I ever assumed my married
name, solely on account of its having been his request all along
that I should not do it. This writing to you, madam, is my first
disobedience, and I am justified in it. A woman who is driven to
visit her husband like a thief in the night and then sent away like
a street dog--left to get up, unbolt, unbar, and find her way out of
the house as she best may--is justified in doing anything.
'But should I demand of him a restitution of rights, there would be
involved a publicity which I could not endure, and a noisy scandal
flinging my name the length and breadth of the country.
'What I still prefer to any such violent means is that you reason
with him privately, and compel him to bring me home to your parish
in a decent and careful manner, in the way that would be adopted by
any respectable man, whose wife had been living away from him for
some time, by reason, say, of peculiar family circumstances which
had caused disunion, but not enmity, and who at length was enabled
to reinstate her in his house.
'You will, I know, oblige me in this, especially as knowledge of a
peculiar transaction of your own, which took place some years ago,
has lately come to me in a singular way. I will not at present
trouble you by describing how. It is enough, that I alone, of all
people living, know ALL THE SIDES OF THE STORY, those from whom I
collected it having each only a partial knowledge which confuses
them and points to nothing. One person knows of your early
engagement and its sudden termination; another, of the reason of
those strange meetings at inns and coffee-houses; another, of what
was sufficient to cause all this, and so on. I know what fits one
and all the circumstances like a key, and shows them to be the
natural outcrop of a rational (though rather rash) line of conduct
for a young lady. You will at once perceive how it was that some at
least of these things were revealed to me.
'This knowledge then, common to, and secretly treasured by us both,
is the ground upon which I beg for your friendship and help, with a
feeling that you will be too generous to refuse it to me.
'I may add that, as yet, my husband knows nothing of this, neither
need he if you remember my request.'
'A threat--a flat stinging threat! as delicately wrapped up in words
as the woman could do it; a threat from a miserable unknown creature
to an Aldclyffe, and not the least proud member of the family
either! A threat on his account--O, O! shall it be?'
Presently this humour of defiance vanished, and the members of her
body became supple again, her proceedings proving that it was
absolutely necessary to give way, Aldclyffe as she was. She wrote a
short answer to Mrs. Manston, saying civilly that Mr. Manston's
possession of such a near relation was a fact quite new to herself,
and that she would see what could be done in such an unfortunate
6. NOVEMBER THE TWENTY-FIRST
Manston received a message the next day requesting his attendance at
the House punctually at eight o'clock the ensuing evening. Miss
Aldclyffe was brave and imperious, but with the purpose she had in
view she could not look him in the face whilst daylight shone upon
The steward was shown into the library. On entering it, he was
immediately struck with the unusual gloom which pervaded the
apartment. The fire was dead and dull, one lamp, and that a
comparatively small one, was burning at the extreme end, leaving the
main proportion of the lofty and sombre room in an artificial
twilight, scarcely powerful enough to render visible the titles of
the folio and quarto volumes which were jammed into the lower tiers
of the bookshelves.
After keeping him waiting for more than twenty minutes (Miss
Aldclyffe knew that excellent recipe for taking the stiffness out of
human flesh, and for extracting all pre-arrangement from human
speech) she entered the room.
Manston sought her eye directly. The hue of her features was not
discernible, but the calm glance she flung at him, from which all
attempt at returning his scrutiny was absent, awoke him to the
perception that probably his secret was by some means or other known
to her; how it had become known he could not tell.
She drew forth the letter, unfolded it, and held it up to him,
letting it hang by one corner from between her finger and thumb, so
that the light from the lamp, though remote, fell directly upon its
'You know whose writing this is?' she said.
He saw the strokes plainly, instantly resolving to burn his ships
and hazard all on an advance.
'My wife's,' he said calmly.
His quiet answer threw her off her balance. She had no more
expected an answer than does a preacher when he exclaims from the
pulpit, 'Do you feel your sin?' She had clearly expected a sudden
'And why all this concealment?' she said again, her voice rising, as
she vainly endeavoured to control her feelings, whatever they were.
'It doesn't follow that, because a man is married, he must tell
every stranger of it, madam,' he answered, just as calmly as before.
'Stranger! well, perhaps not; but, Mr. Manston, why did you choose
to conceal it, I ask again? I have a perfect right to ask this
question, as you will perceive, if you consider the terms of my
'I will tell you. There were two simple reasons. The first was
this practical one; you advertised for an unmarried man, if you
'Of course I remember.'
'Well, an incident suggested to me that I should try for the
situation. I was married; but, knowing that in getting an office
where there is a restriction of this kind, leaving one's wife behind
is always accepted as a fulfilment of the condition, I left her
behind for awhile. The other reason is, that these terms of yours
afforded me a plausible excuse for escaping (for a short time) the
company of a woman I had been mistaken in marrying.'
'Mistaken! what was she?' the lady inquired.
'A third-rate actress, whom I met with during my stay in Liverpool
last summer, where I had gone to fulfil a short engagement with an
'Where did she come from?'
'She is an American by birth, and I grew to dislike her when we had
been married a week.'
'She was ugly, I imagine?'
'She is not an ugly woman by any means.'
'Up to the ordinary standard?'
'Quite up to the ordinary standard--indeed, handsome. After a while
we quarrelled and separated.'
'You did not ill-use her, of course?' said Miss Aldclyffe, with a
'I did not.'
'But at any rate, you got thoroughly tired of her.'
Manston looked as if he began to think her questions put of place;
however, he said quietly, 'I did get tired of her. I never told her
so, but we separated; I to come here, bringing her with me as far as
London and leaving her there in perfectly comfortable quarters; and
though your advertisement expressed a single man, I have always
intended to tell you the whole truth; and this was when I was going
to tell it, when your satisfaction with my careful management of
your affairs should have proved the risk to be a safe one to run.'
'Then I saw that you were good enough to be interested in my welfare
to a greater extent than I could have anticipated or hoped, judging
you by the frigidity of other employers, and this caused me to
hesitate. I was vexed at the complication of affairs. So matters
stood till three nights ago; I was then walking home from the
pottery, and came up to the railway. The down-train came along
close to me, and there, sitting at a carriage window, I saw my wife:
she had found out my address, and had thereupon determined to follow
me here. I had not been home many minutes before she came in, next
morning early she left again--'
'Because you treated her so cavalierly?'
'And as I suppose, wrote to you directly. That's the whole story of
her, madam.' Whatever were Manston's real feelings towards the lady
who had received his explanation in these supercilious tones, they
remained locked within him as within a casket of steel.
'Did your friends know of your marriage, Mr Manston?' she continued.
'Nobody at all; we kept it a secret for various reasons.'
'It is true then that, as your wife tells me in this letter, she has
not passed as Mrs. Manston till within these last few days?'
'It is quite true; I was in receipt of a very small and uncertain
income when we married; and so she continued playing at the theatre
as before our marriage, and in her maiden name.'
'Has she any friends?'
'I have never heard that she has any in England. She came over here
on some theatrical speculation, as one of a company who were going
to do much, but who never did anything; and here she has remained.'
A pause ensued, which was terminated by Miss Aldclyffe.
'I understand,' she said. 'Now, though I have no direct right to
concern myself with your private affairs (beyond those which arise
from your misleading me and getting the office you hold)--'
'As to that, madam,' he interrupted, rather hotly, 'as to coming
here, I am vexed as much as you. Somebody, a member of the
Institute of Architects--who, I could never tell--sent to my old
address in London your advertisement cut from the paper; it was
forwarded to me; I wanted to get away from Liverpool, and it seemed
as if this was put in my way on purpose, by some old friend or
other. I answered the advertisement certainly, but I was not
particularly anxious to come here, nor am I anxious to stay.'
Miss Aldclyffe descended from haughty superiority to womanly
persuasion with a haste which was almost ludicrous. Indeed, the
Quos ego of the whole lecture had been less the genuine menace of
the imperious ruler of Knapwater than an artificial utterance to
hide a failing heart.
'Now, now, Mr. Manston, you wrong me; don't suppose I wish to be
overbearing, or anything of the kind; and you will allow me to say
this much, at any rate, that I have become interested in your wife,
as well as in yourself.'
'Certainly, madam,' he said, slowly, like a man feeling his way in
the dark. Manston was utterly at fault now. His previous
experience of the effect of his form and features upon womankind en
masse, had taught him to flatter himself that he could account by
the same law of natural selection for the extraordinary interest
Miss Aldclyffe had hitherto taken in him, as an unmarried man; an
interest he did not at all object to, seeing that it kept him near
Cytherea, and enabled him, a man of no wealth, to rule on the estate
as if he were its lawful owner. Like Curius at his Sabine farm, he
had counted it his glory not to possess gold himself, but to have
power over her who did. But at this hint of the lady's wish to take
his wife under her wing also, he was perplexed: could she have any
sinister motive in doing so? But he did not allow himself to be
troubled with these doubts, which only concerned his wife's
'She tells me,' continued Miss Aldclyffe, 'how utterly alone in the
world she stands, and that is an additional reason why I should
sympathize with her. Instead, then, of requesting the favour of
your retirement from the post, and dismissing your interests
altogether, I will retain you as my steward still, on condition that
you bring home your wife, and live with her respectably, in short,
as if you loved her; you understand. I WISH you to stay here if you
grant that everything shall flow smoothly between yourself and her.'
The breast and shoulders of the steward rose, as if an expression of
defiance was about to be poured forth; before it took form, he
controlled himself and said, in his natural voice--
'My part of the performance shall be carried out, madam.'
'And her anxiety to obtain a standing in the world ensures that hers
will,' replied Miss Aldclyffe. 'That will be satisfactory, then.'
After a few additional remarks, she gently signified that she wished
to put an end to the interview. The steward took the hint and
He felt vexed and mortified; yet in walking homeward he was
convinced that telling the whole truth as he had done, with the
single exception of his love for Cytherea (which he tried to hide
even from himself), had never served him in better stead than it had
done that night.
Manston went to his desk and thought of Cytherea's beauty with the
bitterest, wildest regret. After the lapse of a few minutes he
calmed himself by a stoical effort, and wrote the subjoined letter
to his wife:--
November 21, 1864.
'DEAR EUNICE,--I hope you reached London safely after your flighty
visit to me.
'As I promised, I have thought over our conversation that night, and
your wish that your coming here should be no longer delayed. After
all, it was perfectly natural that you should have spoken unkindly
as you did, ignorant as you were of the circumstances which bound
'So I have made arrangements to fetch you home at once. It is
hardly worth while for you to attempt to bring with you any luggage
you may have gathered about you (beyond mere clothing). Dispose of
superfluous things at a broker's; your bringing them would only make
a talk in this parish, and lead people to believe we had long been
keeping house separately.
'Will next Monday suit you for coming? You have nothing to do that
can occupy you for more than a day or two, as far as I can see, and
the remainder of this week will afford ample time. I can be in
London the night before, and we will come down together by the mid-
day train--Your very affectionate husband,
'Now, of course, I shall no longer write to you as Mrs. Rondley.'
The address on the envelope was--
41 CHARLES SQUARE,
He took the letter to the house, and it being too late for the
country post, sent one of the stablemen with it to Casterbridge,
instead of troubling to go to Budmouth with it himself as
heretofore. He had no longer any necessity to keep his condition a
7. FROM THE TWENTY-SECOND TO THE TWENTY-SEVENTH OF NOVEMBER
But the next morning Manston found that he had been forgetful of
another matter, in naming the following Monday to his wife for the
The fact was this. A letter had just come, reminding him that he
had left the whole of the succeeding week open for an important
business engagement with a neighbouring land-agent, at that
gentleman's residence thirteen miles off. The particular day he had
suggested to his wife, had, in the interim, been appropriated by his
correspondent. The meeting could not now be put off.
So he wrote again to his wife, stating that business, which could
not be postponed, called him away from home on Monday, and would
entirely prevent him coming all the way to fetch her on Sunday night
as he had intended, but that he would meet her at the Carriford Road
Station with a conveyance when she arrived there in the evening.
The next day came his wife's answer to his first letter, in which
she said that she would be ready to be fetched at the time named.
Having already written his second letter, which was by that time in
her hands, he made no further reply.
The week passed away. The steward had, in the meantime, let it
become generally known in the village that he was a married man, and
by a little judicious management, sound family reasons for his past
secrecy upon the subject, which were floated as adjuncts to the
story, were placidly received; they seemed so natural and
justifiable to the unsophisticated minds of nine-tenths of his
neighbours, that curiosity in the matter, beyond a strong curiosity
to see the lady's face, was well-nigh extinguished.
X. THE EVENTS OF A DAY AND NIGHT
1. NOVEMBER THE TWENTY-EIGHTH. UNTIL TEN P.M.
Monday came, the day named for Mrs. Manston's journey from London to
her husband's house; a day of singular and great events, influencing
the present and future of nearly all the personages whose actions in
a complex drama form the subject of this record.
The proceedings of the steward demand the first notice. Whilst
taking his breakfast on this particular morning, the clock pointing
to eight, the horse-and-gig that was to take him to Chettlewood
waiting ready at the door, Manston hurriedly cast his eyes down the
column of Bradshaw which showed the details and duration of the
selected train's journey.
The inspection was carelessly made, the leaf being kept open by the
aid of one hand, whilst the other still held his cup of coffee; much
more carelessly than would have been the case had the expected new-
comer been Cytherea Graye, instead of his lawful wife.
He did not perceive, branching from the column down which his finger
ran, a small twist, called a shunting-line, inserted at a particular
place, to imply that at that point the train was divided into two.
By this oversight he understood that the arrival of his wife at
Carriford Road Station would not be till late in the evening: by
the second half of the train, containing the third-class passengers,
and passing two hours and three-quarters later than the previous
one, by which the lady, as a second-class passenger, would really be
He then considered that there would be plenty of time for him to
return from his day's engagement to meet this train. He finished
his breakfast, gave proper and precise directions to his servant on
the preparations that were to be made for the lady's reception,
jumped into his gig, and drove off to Lord Claydonfield's, at
He went along by the front of Knapwater House. He could not help
turning to look at what he knew to be the window of Cytherea's room.
Whilst he looked, a hopeless expression of passionate love and
sensuous anguish came upon his face and lingered there for a few
seconds; then, as on previous occasions, it was resolutely
repressed, and he trotted along the smooth white road, again
endeavouring to banish all thought of the young girl whose beauty
and grace had so enslaved him.
Thus it was that when, in the evening of the same day, Mrs. Manston
reached Carriford Road Station, her husband was still at
Chettlewood, ignorant of her arrival, and on looking up and down the
platform, dreary with autumn gloom and wind, she could see no sign
that any preparation whatever had been made for her reception and
The train went on. She waited, fidgeted with the handle of her
umbrella, walked about, strained her eyes into the gloom of the
chilly night, listened for wheels, tapped with her foot, and showed
all the usual signs of annoyance and irritation: she was the more
irritated in that this seemed a second and culminating instance of
her husband's neglect--the first having been shown in his not
Reflecting awhile upon the course it would be best to take, in order
to secure a passage to Knapwater, she decided to leave all her
luggage, except a dressing-bag, in the cloak-room, and walk to her
husband's house, as she had done on her first visit. She asked one
of the porters if he could find a lad to go with her and carry her
bag: he offered to do it himself.
The porter was a good-tempered, shallow-minded, ignorant man. Mrs.
Manston, being apparently in very gloomy spirits, would probably
have preferred walking beside him without saying a word: but her
companion would not allow silence to continue between them for a
longer period than two or three minutes together.
He had volunteered several remarks upon her arrival, chiefly to the
effect that it was very unfortunate Mr. Manston had not come to the
station for her, when she suddenly asked him concerning the
inhabitants of the parish.
He told her categorically the names of the chief--first the chief
possessors of property; then of brains; then of good looks. As
first among the latter he mentioned Miss Cytherea Graye.
After getting him to describe her appearance as completely as lay in
his power, she wormed out of him the statement that everybody had
been saying--before Mrs. Manston's existence was heard of--how well
the handsome Mr. Manston and the beautiful Miss Graye were suited
for each other as man and wife, and that Miss Aldclyffe was the only
one in the parish who took no interest in bringing about the match.
'He rather liked her you think?'
The porter began to think he had been too explicit, and hastened to
correct the error.
'O no, he don't care a bit about her, ma'am,' he said solemnly.
'Not more than he does about me?'
'Not a bit.'
'Then that must be little indeed,' Mrs. Manston murmured. She stood
still, as if reflecting upon the painful neglect her words had
recalled to her mind; then, with a sudden impulse, turned round, and
walked petulantly a few steps back again in the direction of the
The porter stood still and looked surprised.
'I'll go back again; yes, indeed, I'll go back again!' she said
plaintively. Then she paused and looked anxiously up and down the
'No, I mustn't go back now,' she continued, in a tone of
resignation. Seeing that the porter was watching her, she turned
about and came on as before, giving vent to a slight laugh.
It was a laugh full of character; the low forced laugh which seeks
to hide the painful perception of a humiliating position under the
mask of indifference.
Altogether her conduct had shown her to be what in fact she was, a
weak, though a calculating woman, one clever to conceive, weak to
execute: one whose best-laid schemes were for ever liable to be
frustrated by the ineradicable blight of vacillation at the critical
hour of action.
'O, if I had only known that all this was going to happen!' she
murmured again, as they paced along upon the rustling leaves.
'What did you say, ma'am?' said the porter.
'O, nothing particular; we are getting near the old manor-house by
this time, I imagine?'
'Very near now, ma'am.'
They soon reached Manston's residence, round which the wind blew
mournfully and chill.
Passing under the detached gateway, they entered the porch. The
porter stepped forward, knocked heavily and waited.
Mrs. Manston then advanced to the door and gave a different series
of rappings--less forcible, but more sustained.
There was not a movement of any kind inside, not a ray of light
visible; nothing but the echo of her own knocks through the
passages, and the dry scratching of the withered leaves blown about
her feet upon the floor of the porch.
The steward, of course, was not at home. Mrs. Crickett, not
expecting that anybody would arrive till the time of the later
train, had set the place in order, laid the supper-table, and then
locked the door, to go into the village and converse with her
'Is there an inn in the village?' said Mrs. Manston, after the
fourth and loudest rapping upon the iron-studded old door had
resulted only in the fourth and loudest echo from the passages
'Who keeps it?'
'I will go there to-night,' she said decisively. 'It is too cold,
and altogether too bad, for a woman to wait in the open road on
anybody's account, gentle or simple.'
They went down the park and through the gate, into the village of
Carriford. By the time they reached the Three Tranters, it was
verging upon ten o'clock. There, on the spot where two months
earlier in the season the sunny and lively group of villagers making
cider under the trees had greeted Cytherea's eyes, was nothing now
intelligible but a vast cloak of darkness, from which came the low
sough of the elms, and the occasional creak of the swinging sign.
They went to the door, Mrs. Manston shivering; but less from the
cold, than from the dreariness of her emotions. Neglect is the
coldest of winter winds.
It so happened that Edward Springrove was expected to arrive from
London either on that evening or the next, and at the sound of
voices his father came to the door fully expecting to see him. A
picture of disappointment seldom witnessed in a man's face was
visible in old Mr. Springrove's, when he saw that the comer was a
Mrs. Manston asked for a room, and one that had been prepared for
Edward was immediately named as being ready for her, another being
adaptable for Edward, should he come in.
Without taking any refreshment, or entering any room downstairs, or
even lifting her veil, she walked straight along the passage and up
to her apartment, the chambermaid preceding her.
'If Mr. Manston comes to-night,' she said, sitting on the bed as she
had come in, and addressing the woman, 'tell him I cannot see him.'
The woman left the room, and Mrs. Manston locked the door. Before
the servant had gone down more than two or three stairs, Mrs.
Manston unfastened the door again, and held it ajar.
'Bring me some brandy,' she said.
The chambermaid went down to the bar and brought up the spirit in a
tumbler. When she came into the room, Mrs. Manston had not removed
a single article of apparel, and was walking up and down, as if
still quite undecided upon the course it was best to adopt.
Outside the door, when it was closed upon her, the maid paused to
listen for an instant. She heard Mrs. Manston talking to herself.
'This is welcome home!' she said.
2. FROM TEN TO HALF-PAST ELEVEN P.M.
A strange concurrence of phenomena now confronts us.
During the autumn in which the past scenes were enacted, Mr.
Springrove had ploughed, harrowed, and cleaned a narrow and shaded
piece of ground, lying at the back of his house, which for many
years had been looked upon as irreclaimable waste.
The couch-grass extracted from the soil had been left to wither in
the sun; afterwards it was raked together, lighted in the customary
way, and now lay smouldering in a large heap in the middle of the
It had been kindled three days previous to Mrs. Manston's arrival,
and one or two villagers, of a more cautious and less sanguine
temperament than Springrove, had suggested that the fire was almost
too near the back of the house for its continuance to be unattended
with risk; for though no danger could be apprehended whilst the air
remained moderately still, a brisk breeze blowing towards the house
might possibly carry a spark across.
'Ay, that's true enough,' said Springrove. 'I must look round
before going to bed and see that everything's safe; but to tell the
truth I am anxious to get the rubbish burnt up before the rain comes
to wash it into ground again. As to carrying the couch into the
back field to burn, and bringing it back again, why, 'tis more than
the ashes would be worth.'
'Well, that's very true,' said the neighbours, and passed on.
Two or three times during the first evening after the heap was lit,
he went to the back door to take a survey. Before bolting and
barring up for the night, he made a final and more careful
examination. The slowly-smoking pile showed not the slightest signs
of activity. Springrove's perfectly sound conclusion was, that as
long as the heap was not stirred, and the wind continued in the
quarter it blew from then, the couch would not flame, and that there
could be no shadow of danger to anything, even a combustible
substance, though it were no more than a yard off.
The next morning the burning couch was discovered in precisely the
same state as when he had gone to bed the preceding night. The heap
smoked in the same manner the whole of that day: at bed-time the
farmer looked towards it, but less carefully than on the first
The morning and the whole of the third day still saw the heap in its
old smouldering condition; indeed, the smoke was less, and there
seemed a probability that it might have to be re-kindled on the
After admitting Mrs. Manston to his house in the evening, and
hearing her retire, Mr. Springrove return to the front door to
listen for a sound of his son, and inquired concerning him of the
railway-porter, who sat for a while in the kitchen. The porter had
not noticed young Mr. Springrove get out of the train, at which
intelligence the old man concluded that he would probably not see
his son till the next day, as Edward had hitherto made a point of
coming by the train which had brought Mrs. Manston.
Half-an-hour later the porter left the inn, Springrove at the same
time going to the door to listen again an instant, then he walked
round and in at the back of the house.
The farmer glanced at the heap casually and indifferently in
passing; two nights of safety seemed to ensure the third; and he was
about to bolt and bar as usual, when the idea struck him that there
was just a possibility of his son's return by the latest train,
unlikely as it was that he would be so delayed. The old man
thereupon left the door unfastened, looked to his usual matters
indoors, and went to bed, it being then half-past ten o'clock.
Farmers and horticulturists well know that it is in the nature of a
heap of couch-grass, when kindled in calm weather, to smoulder for
many days, and even weeks, until the whole mass is reduced to a
powdery charcoal ash, displaying the while scarcely a sign of
combustion beyond the volcano-like smoke from its summit; but the
continuance of this quiet process is throughout its length at the
mercy of one particular whim of Nature: that is, a sudden breeze,
by which the heap is liable to be fanned into a flame so brisk as to
consume the whole in an hour or two.
Had the farmer narrowly watched the pile when he went to close the
door, he would have seen, besides the familiar twine of smoke from
its summit, a quivering of the air around the mass, showing that a
considerable heat had arisen inside.
As the railway-porter turned the corner of the row of houses
adjoining the Three Tranters, a brisk new wind greeted his face, and
spread past him into the village. He walked along the high-road
till he came to a gate, about three hundred yards from the inn.
Over the gate could be discerned the situation of the building he
had just quitted. He carelessly turned his head in passing, and saw
behind him a clear red glow indicating the position of the couch-
heap: a glow without a flame, increasing and diminishing in
brightness as the breeze quickened or fell, like the coal of a newly
lighted cigar. If those cottages had been his, he thought, he
should not care to have a fire so near them as that--and the wind
rising. But the cottages not being his, he went on his way to the
station, where he was about to resume duty for the night. The road
was now quite deserted: till four o'clock the next morning, when
the carters would go by to the stables there was little probability
of any human being passing the Three Tranters Inn.
By eleven, everybody in the house was asleep. It truly seemed as if
the treacherous element knew there had arisen a grand opportunity
At a quarter past eleven a slight stealthy crackle made itself heard
amid the increasing moans of the night wind; the heap glowed
brighter still, and burst into a flame; the flame sank, another
breeze entered it, sustained it, and it grew to be first continuous
and weak, then continuous and strong.
At twenty minutes past eleven a blast of wind carried an airy bit of
ignited fern several yards forward, in a direction parallel to the
houses and inn, and there deposited it on the ground.
Five minutes later another puff of wind carried a similar piece to a
distance of five-and-twenty yards, where it also was dropped softly
on the ground.
Still the wind did not blow in the direction of the houses, and even
now to a casual observer they would have appeared safe. But Nature
does few things directly. A minute later yet, an ignited fragment
fell upon the straw covering of a long thatched heap or 'grave' of
mangel-wurzel, lying in a direction at right angles to the house,
and down toward the hedge. There the fragment faded to darkness.
A short time subsequent to this, after many intermediate deposits
and seemingly baffled attempts, another fragment fell on the mangel-
wurzel grave, and continued to glow; the glow was increased by the
wind; the straw caught fire and burst into flame. It was inevitable
that the flame should run along the ridge of the thatch towards a
piggery at the end. Yet had the piggery been tiled, the time-
honoured hostel would even now at this last moment have been safe;
but it was constructed as piggeries are mostly constructed, of wood
and thatch. The hurdles and straw roof of the frail erection became
ignited in their turn, and abutting as the shed did on the back of
the inn, flamed up to the eaves of the main roof in less than thirty
3. HALF-PAST ELEVEN TO TWELVE P.M.
A hazardous length of time elapsed before the inmates of the Three
Tranters knew of their danger. When at length the discovery was
made, the rush was a rush for bare life.
A man's voice calling, then screams, then loud stamping and shouts
Mr. Springrove ran out first. Two minutes later appeared the ostler
and chambermaid, who were man and wife. The inn, as has been
stated, was a quaint old building, and as inflammable as a bee-hive;
it overhung the base at the level of the first floor, and again
overhung at the eaves, which were finished with heavy oak barge-
boards; every atom in its substance, every feature in its
construction, favoured the fire.
The forked flames, lurid and smoky, became nearly lost to view,
bursting forth again with a bound and loud crackle, increased
tenfold in power and brightness. The crackling grew sharper. Long
quivering shadows began to be flung from the stately trees at the
end of the house; the square outline of the church tower, on the
other side of the way, which had hitherto been a dark mass against a
sky comparatively light, now began to appear as a light object
against a sky of darkness; and even the narrow surface of the flag-
staff at the top could be seen in its dark surrounding, brought out
from its obscurity by the rays from the dancing light.
Shouts and other noises increased in loudness and frequency. The
lapse of ten minutes brought most of the inhabitants of that end of
the village into the street, followed in a short time by the rector,
Casting a hasty glance up and down, he beckoned to one or two of the
men, and vanished again. In a short time wheels were heard, and Mr.
Raunham and the men reappeared, with the garden engine, the only one
in the village, except that at Knapwater House. After some little
trouble the hose was connected with a tank in the old stable-yard,
and the puny instrument began to play.
Several seemed paralyzed at first, and stood transfixed, their rigid
faces looking like red-hot iron in the glaring light. In the
confusion a woman cried, 'Ring the bells backwards!' and three or
four of the old and superstitious entered the belfry and jangled
them indescribably. Some were only half dressed, and, to add to the
horror, among them was Clerk Crickett, running up and down with a
face streaming with blood, ghastly and pitiful to see, his
excitement being so great that he had not the slightest conception
of how, when, or where he came by the wound.
The crowd was now busy at work, and tried to save a little of the
furniture of the inn. The only room they could enter was the
parlour, from which they managed to bring out the bureau, a few
chairs, some old silver candlesticks, and half-a-dozen light
articles; but these were all.
Fiery mats of thatch slid off the roof and fell into the road with a
deadened thud, whilst white flakes of straw and wood-ash were flying
in the wind like feathers. At the same time two of the cottages
adjoining, upon which a little water had been brought to play from
the rector's engine, were seen to be on fire. The attenuated spirt
of water was as nothing upon the heated and dry surface of the
thatched roof; the fire prevailed without a minute's hindrance, and
dived through to the rafters.
Suddenly arose a cry, 'Where's Mr. Springrove?'
He had vanished from the spot by the churchyard wall, where he had
been standing a few minutes earlier.
'I fancy he's gone inside,' said a voice.
'Madness and folly! what can he save?' said another. 'Good God,
find him! Help here!'
A wild rush was made at the door, which had fallen to, and in
defiance of the scorching flame that burst forth, three men forced
themselves through it. Immediately inside the threshold they found
the object of their search lying senseless on the floor of the
To bring him out and lay him on a bank was the work of an instant; a
basin of cold water was dashed in his face, and he began to recover
consciousness, but very slowly. He had been saved by a miracle. No
sooner were his preservers out of the building than the window-
frames lit up as if by magic with deep and waving fringes of flames.
Simultaneously, the joints of the boards forming the front door
started into view as glowing bars of fire: a star of red light
penetrated the centre, gradually increasing in size till the flames
Then the staircase fell.
'Everybody is out safe,' said a voice.
'Yes, thank God!' said three or four others.
'O, we forgot that a stranger came! I think she is safe.'
'I hope she is,' said the weak voice of some one coming up from
behind. It was the chambermaid's.
Springrove at that moment aroused himself; he staggered to his feet,
and threw his hands up wildly.
'Everybody, no! no! The lady who came by train, Mrs. Manston! I
tried to fetch her out, but I fell.'
An exclamation of horror burst from the crowd; it was caused partly
by this disclosure of Springrove, more by the added perception which
followed his words.
An average interval of about three minutes had elapsed between one
intensely fierce gust of wind and the next, and now another poured
over them; the roof swayed, and a moment afterwards fell in with a
crash, pulling the gable after it, and thrusting outwards the front
wall of wood-work, which fell into the road with a rumbling echo; a
cloud of black dust, myriads of sparks, and a great outburst of
flame followed the uproar of the fall.
'Who is she? what is she?' burst from every lip again and again,
incoherently, and without leaving a sufficient pause for a reply,
had a reply been volunteered.
The autumn wind, tameless, and swift, and proud, still blew upon the
dying old house, which was constructed so entirely of combustible
materials that it burnt almost as fiercely as a corn-rick. The heat
in the road increased, and now for an instant at the height of the
conflagration all stood still, and gazed silently, awestruck and
helpless, in the presence of so irresistible an enemy. Then, with
minds full of the tragedy unfolded to them, they rushed forward
again with the obtuse directness of waves, to their labour of saving
goods from the houses adjoining, which it was evident were all
doomed to destruction.
The minutes passed by. The Three Tranters Inn sank into a mere heap
of red-hot charcoal: the fire pushed its way down the row as the
church clock opposite slowly struck the hour of midnight, and the
bewildered chimes, scarcely heard amid the crackling of the flames,
wandered through the wayward air of the Old Hundred-and-Thirteenth
4. NINE TO ELEVEN P.M.
Manston mounted his gig and set out from Chettlewood that evening in
no very enviable frame of mind. The thought of domestic life in
Knapwater Old House, with the now eclipsed wife of the past, was
more than disagreeable, was positively distasteful to him.
Yet he knew that the influential position, which, from whatever
fortunate cause, he held on Miss Aldclyffe's manor, would never
again fall to his lot on any other, and he tacitly assented to this
dilemma, hoping that some consolation or other would soon suggest
itself to him; married as he was, he was near Cytherea.
He occasionally looked at his watch as he drove along the lanes,
timing the pace of his horse by the hour, that he might reach
Carriford Road Station just soon enough to meet the last London
He soon began to notice in the sky a slight yellow halo, near the
horizon. It rapidly increased; it changed colour, and grew redder;
then the glare visibly brightened and dimmed at intervals, showing
that its origin was affected by the strong wind prevailing.
Manston reined in his horse on the summit of a hill, and considered.
'It is a rick-yard on fire,' he thought; 'no house could produce
such a raging flame so suddenly.'
He trotted on again, attempting to particularize the local features
in the neighbourhood of the fire; but this it was too dark to do,
and the excessive winding of the roads misled him as to its
direction, not being an old inhabitant of the district, or a
countryman used to forming such judgments; whilst the brilliancy of
the light shortened its real remoteness to an apparent distance of
not more than half: it seemed so near that he again stopped his
horse, this time to listen; but he could hear no sound.
Entering now a narrow valley, the sides of which obscured the sky to
an angle of perhaps thirty or forty degrees above the mathematical
horizon, he was obliged to suspend his judgment till he was in
possession of further knowledge, having however assumed in the
interim, that the fire was somewhere between Carriford Road Station
and the village.
The self-same glare had just arrested the eyes of another man. He
was at that minute gliding along several miles to the east of the
steward's position, but nearing the same point as that to which
Manston tended. The younger Edward Springrove was returning from
London to his father's house by the identical train which the
steward was expecting to bring his wife, the truth being that
Edward's lateness was owing to the simplest of all causes, his
temporary want of money, which led him to make a slow journey for
the sake of travelling at third-class fare.
Springrove had received Cytherea's bitter and admonitory letter, and
he was clearly awakened to a perception of the false position in
which he had placed himself, by keeping silence at Budmouth on his
long engagement. An increasing reluctance to put an end to those
few days of ecstasy with Cytherea had overruled his conscience, and
tied his tongue till speaking was too late.
'Why did I do it? how could I dream of loving her?' he asked himself
as he walked by day, as he tossed on his bed by night: 'miserable
An impressionable heart had for years--perhaps as many as six or
seven years--been distracting him, by unconsciously setting itself
to yearn for somebody wanting, he scarcely knew whom. Echoes of
himself, though rarely, he now and then found. Sometimes they were
men, sometimes women, his cousin Adelaide being one of these; for in
spite of a fashion which pervades the whole community at the present
day--the habit of exclaiming that woman is not undeveloped man, but
diverse, the fact remains that, after all, women are Mankind, and
that in many of the sentiments of life the difference of sex is but
a difference of degree.
But the indefinable helpmate to the remoter sides of himself still
continued invisible. He grew older, and concluded that the ideas,
or rather emotions, which possessed him on the subject, were
probably too unreal ever to be found embodied in the flesh of a
woman. Thereupon, he developed a plan of satisfying his dreams by
wandering away to the heroines of poetical imagination, and took no
further thought on the earthly realization of his formless desire,
in more homely matters satisfying himself with his cousin.
Cytherea appeared in the sky: his heart started up and spoke:
'Tis She, and here
Lo! I unclothe and clear
My wishes' cloudy character.'
Some women kindle emotion so rapidly in a man's heart that the
judgment cannot keep pace with its rise, and finds, on comprehending
the situation, that faithfulness to the old love is already
treachery to the new. Such women are not necessarily the greatest
of their sex, but there are very few of them. Cytherea was one.
On receiving the letter from her he had taken to thinking over these
things, and had not answered it at all. But 'hungry generations'
soon tread down the muser in a city. At length he thought of the
strong necessity of living. After a dreary search, the negligence
of which was ultimately overcome by mere conscientiousness, he
obtained a situation as assistant to an architect in the
neighbourhood of Charing Cross: the duties would not begin till
after the lapse of a month.
He could not at first decide whither he should go to spend the
intervening time; but in the midst of his reasonings he found
himself on the road homeward, impelled by a secret and unowned hope
of getting a last glimpse of Cytherea there.
It was a quarter to twelve when Manston drove into the station-yard.
The train was punctual, and the bell, announcing its arrival, rang
as he crossed the booking-office to go out upon the platform.
The porter who had accompanied Mrs. Manston to Carriford, and had
returned to the station on his night duty, recognized the steward as
he entered, and immediately came towards him.
'Mrs. Manston came by the nine o'clock train, sir,' he said.
The steward gave vent to an expression of vexation.
'Her luggage is here, sir,' the porter said.
'Put it up behind me in the gig if it is not too much,' said
'Directly this train is in and gone, sir.'
The man vanished and crossed the line to meet the entering train.
'Where is that fire?' Manston said to the booking-clerk.
Before the clerk could speak, another man ran in and answered the
question without having heard it.
'Half Carriford is burnt down, or will be!' he exclaimed. 'You
can't see the flames from this station on account of the trees, but
step on the bridge--'tis tremendous!'
He also crossed the line to assist at the entry of the train, which
came in the next minute.
The steward stood in the office. One passenger alighted, gave up
his ticket, and crossed the room in front of Manston: a young man
with a black bag and umbrella in his hand. He passed out of the
door, down the steps, and struck out into the darkness.
'Who was that young man?' said Manston, when the porter had
returned. The young man, by a kind of magnetism, had drawn the
steward's thoughts after him.
'He's an architect.'
'My own old profession. I could have sworn it by the cut of him,'
Manston murmured. 'What's his name?' he said again.
'Springrove--Farmer Springrove's son, Edward.'
'Farmer Springrove's son, Edward,' the steward repeated to himself,
and considered a matter to which the words had painfully recalled
The matter was Miss Aldclyffe's mention of the young man as
Cytherea's lover, which, indeed, had scarcely ever been absent from
'But for the existence of my wife that man might have been my
rival,' he pondered, following the porter, who had now come back to
him, into the luggage-room. And whilst the man was carrying out and
putting in one box, which was sufficiently portable for the gig,
Manston still thought, as his eyes watched the process--
'But for my wife, Springrove might have been my rival.'
He examined the lamps of his gig, carefully laid out the reins,
mounted the seat and drove along the turnpike-road towards Knapwater
The exact locality of the fire was plain to him as he neared home.
He soon could hear the shout of men, the flapping of the flames, the
crackling of burning wood, and could smell the smoke from the
Of a sudden, a few yards ahead, within the compass of the rays from
the right-hand lamp, burst forward the figure of a man. Having been
walking in darkness the newcomer raised his hands to his eyes, on
approaching nearer, to screen them from the glare of the reflector.
Manston saw that he was one of the villagers: a small farmer
originally, who had drunk himself down to a day-labourer and reputed
'Hoy!' cried Manston, aloud, that the man might step aside out of
'Is that Mr. Manston?' said the man.
'Somebody ha' come to Carriford: and the rest of it may concern
'Did you expect Mrs. Manston to-night, sir?'
'Yes, unfortunately she's come, I know, and asleep long before this
time, I suppose.'
The labourer leant his elbow upon the shaft of the gig and turned
his face, pale and sweating from his late work at the fire, up to
'Yes, she did come,' he said. . . . 'I beg pardon, sir, but I
should be glad of--of--'
'Glad of a trifle for bringen ye the news.'
'Not a farthing! I didn't want your news, I knew she was come.'
'Won't you give me a shillen, sir?'
'Then will you lend me a shillen, sir? I be tired out, and don't
know what to do. If I don't pay you back some day I'll be d--d.'
'The devil is so cheated that perdition isn't worth a penny as a
'Let me go on,' said Manston.
'Thy wife is DEAD; that's 'the rest o' the news,' said the labourer
slowly. He waited for a reply; none came.
'She went to the Three Tranters, because she couldn't get into thy
house, the burnen roof fell in upon her before she could be called
up, and she's a cinder, as thou'lt be some day.'
'That will do, let me drive on,' said the steward calmly.
Expectation of a concussion may be so intense that its failure
strikes the brain with more force than its fulfilment. The labourer
sank back into the ditch. Such a Cushi could not realize the
possibility of such an unmoved David as this.
Manston drove hastily to the turning of the road, tied his horse,
and ran on foot to the site of the fire.
The stagnation caused by the awful accident had been passed through,
and all hands were helping to remove from the remaining cottage what
furniture they could lay hold of; the thatch of the roofs being
already on fire. The Knapwater fire-engine had arrived on the spot,
but it was small, and ineffectual. A group was collected round the
rector, who in a coat which had become bespattered, scorched, and
torn in his exertions, was directing on one hand the proceedings
relative to the removal of goods into the church, and with the other
was pointing out the spot on which it was most desirable that the
puny engines at their disposal should be made to play. Every tongue
was instantly silent at the sight of Manston's pale and clear
countenance, which contrasted strangely with the grimy and streaming
faces of the toiling villagers.
'Was she burnt?' he said in a firm though husky voice, and stepping
into the illuminated area. The rector came to him, and took him
aside. 'Is she burnt?' repeated Manston.
'She is dead: but thank God, she was spared the horrid agony of
burning,' the rector said solemnly; 'the roof and gable fell in upon
her, and crushed her. Instant death must have followed.'
'Why was she here?' said Manston.
'From what we can hurriedly collect, it seems that she found the
door of your house locked, and concluded that you had retired, the
fact being that your servant, Mrs. Crickett, had gone out to supper.
She then came back to the inn and went to bed.'
'Where's the landlord?' said Manston.
Mr. Springrove came up, walking feebly, and wrapped in a cloak, and
corroborated the evidence given by the rector.
'Did she look ill, or annoyed, when she came?' said the steward.
'I can't say. I didn't see; but I think--'
'What do you think?'
'She was much put out about something.'
'My not meeting her, naturally,' murmured the other, lost in
reverie. He turned his back on Springrove and the rector, and
retired from the shining light.
Everything had been done that could be done with the limited means
at their disposal. The whole row of houses was destroyed, and each
presented itself as one stage of a series, progressing from smoking
ruins at the end where the inn had stood, to a partly flaming mass--
glowing as none but wood embers will glow--at the other.
A feature in the decline of town fires was noticeably absent here--
steam. There was present what is not observable in towns--
The heat, and the smarting effect upon their eyes of the strong
smoke from the burning oak and deal, had at last driven the
villagers back from the road in front of the houses, and they now
stood in groups in the churchyard, the surface of which, raised by
the interments of generations, stood four or five feet above the
level of the road, and almost even with the top of the low wall
dividing one from the other. The headstones stood forth whitely
against the dark grass and yews, their brightness being repeated on
the white smock-frocks of some of the labourers, and in a mellower,
ruddier form on their faces and hands, on those of the grinning
gargoyles, and on other salient stonework of the weather-beaten
church in the background.
The rector had decided that, under the distressing circumstances of
the case, there would be no sacrilege in placing in the church, for
the night, the pieces of furniture and utensils which had been saved
from the several houses. There was no other place of safety for